The Jeb Bush Myth

Jeb Bush, George P. Bush

 

Now that the horrors of the latest Bush presidency are fading in America’s collective memory, Republicans are warming to the idea of another Bush in the White House. I was expecting something like this but I thought the most likely member of the dynasty would be George P (above, right). Surprise! It’s Jeb, (above, left) who – as I’m sure you know – is George P’s dad.

I guess I didn’t think the bad taste left by George W’s administration would fade this fast.

I don’t know George P but I’ve met Jeb. It was before he became governor of Florida, when he was a businessman in Miami and I was managing editor of a business weekly called Miami Today.

The paper had a feature called Man of the Week (or something close), and the freelancer who produced it wasn’t available one week so I had to cover for him.

It was not a pleasant experience.

Jeb Bush was uncooperative, arrogant – even haughty. He refused to answer several innocuous questions because he thought they were too personal and he barely bothered to answer the others. It was obvious he thought the newspaper and I were not worth his valuable time.

That was just my impression though. My cousin Colin worked on one of his projects – I think it was in the Cayman Islands – and seemed to think Jeb was an OK guy.

Yes, it could have been the Cayman Islands. Jeb’s web is spread that wide. I believe his myriad money making enterprises even included housing projects for Caribbean governments. It’s impossible to confirm that, though. Jeb was (is) into too many real estate ventures for anyone to keep track of them.  I understand he and his Cuban-American partner Amando Codina built subdivisions on the fringes of the precious Everglades, for example.

There’s a widespread perception of Jeb as a regular guy – pro Hispanic and all. You know he is married to a Mexican, right?

But I wouldn’t trust the guy. I’ve read that when his brother, Neil, was mixed up in that Savings & Loan scandal back in the Eighties, Jeb emerged with an unpaid loan of nearly $5 million. I haven’t read anything about him paying it back.

And if (when?) he becomes a presidential candidate, you are sure to hear how popular he was as our governor here in Florida. But he wasn’t popular with me. As a reporter with the Tampa Tribune, I wrote many a story about his “conservative” policies – with which I personally disagreed strongly (but you know I had to be “objective”).

One I found most distasteful (and couldn’t say so)  was his push for school vouchers. It looked to me like a thinly veiled attempt to bring back school segregation, but it seemed to have a lot of support in Florida. Especially in those areas that still retain echoes of the Old South.

But you can be sure candidate Jeb will be perceived as a moderate Republican with common-sense, down-to-earth ideas, a guy who can get along with people of various ethnic backgrounds, etc., etc. An adroit politician with “the common touch.”

I suppose the name “Jeb” has something to do with the public’s image of him. But that isn’t even his name. The guy was christened John Ellis Bush, and somebody must have noticed that the initials spell Jeb. He liked the nickname so much he adopted it.

But to me, he remains John Ellis Bush, scion of one of the wealthiest families in America, a business tycoon who does what he has to – and with whomever he has to – when it comes to making a buck.

I have no doubt that a vote for this Bush would be a vote for the same help-the-rich policies we got from the other members of the family.

Click for more about Jeb Bush.

Click for the Bush family and the S&L scandal.

Click for Jeb as presidential candidate.

 

Picking on the President

U.S. President Barack Obama wipes a tear as he speaks about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown during a press briefing at the White House in Washington

 

I am at a loss to understand what Barack Obama did to deserve such widespread hostility. Get elected maybe? Get reelected?

He certainly has not accomplished all the things he set out to do. And he probably won’t. The polls predict he will have to contend with a Republican Congress during his final two years.

But you have to concede the man tried.

Of course he has made mistakes. Haven’t you?

One of the worst blunders was his attempt to make allies of Republicans, bringing them into his Cabinet, appointing them to key positions and trusting them to do a good job. They didn’t of course. They’re Republicans.

And some of them have even had the nerve to smear him in those blackguardly tell-all books.

He tried to be fair, to see both sides of an issue, walk a mile in the other man’s shoes, etc., etc.

And this approach has drawn flak from both sides of every dispute.  From immigration and same-sex marriage to women’s rights, health care and economic policy, every issue he touches seems to turn toxic.

The left complains he doesn’t go far enough; the right insists he goes too far.

Some of the resentment is genuine; a lot is theater.

Political opponents have made a commitment to harass him in every way possible. His every act comes under fire, his every sentence is parsed for political ammunition.

House Speaker John Boehner has even gone so far as to get Congressional authority to file a lawsuit against the President. Incredibly, it targets President Obama for delaying provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the same Obamacare the Republicans have voted innumerable times to repeal.

So far, no law firm will handle the case for Boehner, but I don’t doubt he will keep trying until he finds some shyster who will.

And you know the Republicans will try to impeach him if they win the Senate and keep the House. They are not likely to have the votes to get actual impeachment. It takes a two-thirds majority in the Senate to do that. But they will certainly get approval from the House to impeach, and they will use the proceedings to smear the President in every possible way.

The venom is so intense I have to think it’s personal.

And I suspect some of it has to do with Barack Obama’s race. There are many Americans – even in the year 2014 – who resent progress by black people, especially by black men.

And that’s a shame. Americans had the chance to show the world they were better than that. And they blew it.

Click for the latest on the lawsuit.

Click for more on impeachment.

Click for more on the President’s unpopularity.

 

The Obamacare Mess

Obamacare-Down

 

Let’s face it, a lot of Americans don’t want health insurance. They want to gamble on their health. Sandra and I knew someone who wouldn’t go to the doctor even though she had Medicare. She didn’t feel sick so why would she see a doctor, she said. She wasn’t that old, and she certainly seemed strong and healthy.

She’s gone now. We miss her. A lot. We wish she had gone to see a doctor before it was too late.

A lot of people. mostly the young and robust, share this view. Why do they need health insurance? They don’t feel sick.

That’s the root cause of Obamacare’s unpopularity. For the vast health insurance program to work, everybody must pay into it. And the law makes that compulsory. A lot of young, healthy people resent it.

However, the law also provides federal subsidies for anybody who doesn’t have enough money to afford the premiums.

At least that’s what President Obama intended.

But Republicans insist that’s no what the law says. They claim federal subsidies apply only in states that have set up health insurance exchanges in accordance with the law. In states that rejected Obamacare – read that as red states – federal subsidies are illegal, the Republicans say.

And because of all the writing and rewriting that finally produced the voluminous Affordable Care Act, the wording does leave room for argument.

The health-care law says people qualify for tax credits when they buy insurance on online exchanges “established by the state.” And only 14 states have set up their own exchanges. In the other states, it’s the federal government that runs the exchanges.

The US Supreme Court is about to hear the Republicans’ arguments.

The justices are considering an appeal that would outlaw federal health care subsidies in the 36 states  that refused to set up Obamacare exchanges.

A decision is expected by Monday – the day before the midterm elections.

It’s a decision that will have massive repercussions. Writing in Bloomberg News today, Greg Stohr explains:

The tax credits have implications well beyond the 4.6 million people who receive them in those states. A high court decision against the administration would have ripple effects, undercutting other parts of the Affordable Care Act and potentially destabilizing insurance markets across the nation.

With the  millions now covered by Obamacare, you can imagine the chaos the justices would cause by striking down one of its core provisions.

According to the Bloomberg article, it would mean that more than half of the 7.3 million people who have bought Obamacare policies aren’t entitled to the subsidies they are receiving, for one thing.

What the ultra-conservative Supreme Court will do is anyone’s guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they sabotage the law.

Click for the Bloomberg article.

 

The Ebola Bully

Kaci Hickox

In this mortal world, we get sick. That’s the way it goes. There are zillions upon zillions of microbes lurking in the air, water and earth around us, waiting for a break in our defenses. Some are more vicious than others.

From what I’m hearing about Ebola, it’s one of the worst ever. It seems to be very contagious. And it is frequently fatal.

We should take care to avoid physical contact with anyone who has Ebola, and if we suspect we have Ebola coming on, we should run, not walk, to the nearest medical facility.

Perhaps most important, health care professionals must be especially meticulous in observing safety protocols.

Having conceded all this, I still think Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo are overreacting when they impose involuntary quarantines on health care volunteers entering to their states from Ebola afflicted areas.

And, as usual, Christie, that big, fat bully, is being especially heavy handed.

Always on the alert for a chance to show off, the New Jersey governor had nurse Kaci Hickox forcibly detained on her return from a volunteer assignment in West Africa.  According to news reports, she was confined in a kind of tent outside a New Jersey health center.

Not surprisingly, Nurse Hickox (photo above) was mad as hell and has hired a lawyer. I expect she will sue Christie and his minions, and I hope she gets a huge award from the jury.

Besieged by protests, Christie was obliged to allow the young nurse to return to her home in Maine, where she is supposed to submit to some kind of house arrest. She is reportedly refusing to do any such thing.

We’ll see what happens next. The “authorities’ will slap her in irons and toss her in a dungeon, you think? Perhaps not. Despite the best efforts of Republican politicians, this is still America and we are still not back in the Middle Ages.

Now, Cuomo is sort of backing down, according to reports. He is already suffering political fallout from some shady deal he was involved in, and he can’t afford to lose any more public support.

Christie, on the other hand, is unapologetic. His tough-guy political schtick is on full display.

“Whatever. Get in line,” he responded when told the nurse was planning to sue him. “I’ve been sued lots of times before. Get in line. I’m happy to take it on.”

This is a guy who aspires to be leader of the free world?

 

And the Winners Are?

Have you voted? Are you planning to vote? I bet most people who plan to vote have already cast their ballots in this dismal election – or at least know who they’re voting for. So why are the politicians still fund raising? What possible use could advertising be at this late stage of the game?

I know, I know, it’s all about “getting out the vote.” But tell me, if you didn’t plan to vote, could some stranger knocking on your door persuade you to change your mind?

I treat the political door knockers the same way I treat Jehovah’s Witnesses – politely but firmly.  Their influence on me is zero.

Could one more vitriolic “attack ad” get you riled up enough to actually cast a ballot when you weren’t planning to?

I suspect that by now most voters feel it’s all “spin,” anyway.

America voted for Hope and Change – twice.

For most Americans,  life is pretty much the same as it was. For a lot of Americans, the change has been for the worse. It’s hard to keep hoping.

Yes, I know, it’s not President Obama’s fault. He tried. He really did. And all things considered, he achieved some amazing results.

But, overall, the Republicans proved too strong for him – too rich, too determined, too cunning, too mean. And the Democrats – a lot of them, anyway – never had his back.

And, no, President Obama didn’t cause Ebola or ISIS or global warming or whatever. But with all that going on, you can’t expect voters to be in a good mood. Indeed, many Americans are ready to throw the President overboard like Jonah.

To me, this lead to a story in the Huffington Post sums up the spirit of the 2014 mid-term elections:

If there’s one person in New Hampshire less popular than President Barack Obama, it’s Republican Scott Brown.

This is not really a “popular” vote; it’s the election of the less unpopular. Apparently, America likes “none of the above.”

I wonder whether we have to wait until election day to know who wins, anyway. It doesn’t take long on election night for CNN or MSNBC to project the winner in a lot of races. Why can’t the same computers figure out the winners from the early ballots? Mix in some poll results and factor in various trends – you know, the way Chuck Todd does – and put us out of our misery.

Here we are, a few days away from Election Day, and our mailbox is full of campaign material. The TV reeks with insults and invocations. The pundits are in full voice.

Hey, guys! I already voted. And Sandra voted, too.

For us, the election is over. We’re waiting for the computers to project the winners.

 

Islam’s Hidden Face

full face veilMy brother Bill sent me an interesting email he got from a friend; it was titled “Islam is Not a Religion.” I don’t profess to know what a religion is but after reading the email I have to agree that Islam doesn’t seem to be like any religion that I recognize.

The email quotes Theologian Peter Hammond, who argues that:

Islam is not a religion, nor is it a cult. In its fullest form, it is a complete, total, 100% system of life. Islam has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military components.

You might respond that America’s Religious Right shares this approach to Christianity. And cults like Scientology also attempt to dictate every aspect of your daily life.

But even the most extreme Christian or Scientologist stops far short of the goals that Islam establishes for its followers.

Yes, there are Christians who use their religion as a political platform. Yes, there are Christians who would – if they could – establish a theocracy in America.

But their efforts pale in comparison with the organized crusade that many Muslims are embarking upon around the globe. And it seems that this commitment to attaining political, social, judicial and political power is an integral element of Islam.

I hesitate to join any kind of religious crusade. I think we should all worry about the log in our own eye before pointing out the speck of dust in someone else’s eye.

Obviously, stirring up resentment and fear of Muslims is a frighteningly bad idea.

But we must be careful to protect our own liberties and defend ourselves against zealots of any kind.

If Islam is indeed a peaceful, non-threatening kind of faith, then we should welcome followers of that faith. But if it is a mask for a political power grab, we should be on our guard.

How do we tell the difference?

I guess “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

After reading what Dr. Hammond has to say, I can only pray that the governments of the free world will be watchful. They could possibly be clasping a serpent to their bosom.

And as Dr. Hammond points out:

Today’s 1.5 billion Muslims make up 22% of the world’s population. But their birth rates dwarf the birth rates of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and all other believers. Muslims will exceed 50% of the world’s population by the end of this century.

I won’t be around to see what happens then, but I worry for those who will be.

Click for Snopes on Dr. Hammond.

 

Changing Times

We voted, Sandra and I. We went to the Larry Jackson Library and filled  in the ovals next to the names of all the Democratic candidates. At least, Sandra did. I made an exception and voted for one Republican – Adam Putnam, the commissioner of agriculture. I’ve known about Putnam for years. He seems to belong to that rare breed – decent Republicans.

As we strolled into the library this morning, I was struck by the difference from six years ago, when we also voted early. Then there was a long waiting line. We waited about two hours to vote. Today there were just a few stragglers. We were in and out in minutes.

I didn’t see any young voters. And the only visible minorities were the ones handing out the ballots.

What’s going on?

Six years ago, there was a thrill in the air as young voters and minorities seized the opportunity of a lifetime – the chance to elect America’s first black president.

Today, the glow is gone.

President Obama was elected and reelected, but his allure has slipped away. His approval ratings are in the dumps. Like the apostle Peter in the Bible story, Democratic candidates are insisting they never heard of the guy.

Later, at lunch in the Olive Garden, I asked the waitress if she was going to vote. She enthusiastically assured me she would. Yes, she agreed, young women like her have a lot at stake in this election.

Fox News co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle thinks young American women don’t deserve the opportunity to vote. On The Five Tuesday, Guilfoyle said young women should be “excused” from their civic duties so they can “go back on Tinder and Match.com.”

Young women don’t have the necessary “life experiences,” such as having kids and paying bills, she argued. “They’re like healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world.”

We’ll have to see how accurate that description is. It certainly did not fit our waitress, Brianna. She seemed quite mature and responsible.

I wonder – is  she the rule or the exception?

Young women like Brianna could be the Democrats’ last hope.

And the minorities?

Minorities don’t vote in midterms, the pundits say.  They might be right.

And the young male voters?

My bet is that they’re sitting this one out.

National employment figures may look encouraging, but youth unemployment is high, especially among minorities.

The economy has improved, officials report, but the rich are still getting richer, the poor are still going hungry. The Republicans have managed to impose their will despite the President’s early popularity.

Hope and change have proved elusive. To the vast majority of Americans, anyway.

If the Democratic base is disenchanted, as they very well could be, the Republicans will sweep the polls, capturing both the House and the Senate.

Pray that isn’t happening.

The next two years would be a nightmare for America – and probably for the rest of the free world.

Click for Guilfoyle’s remarks.

Click for a different early voting experience.

 

Terror in Canada’s Mosaic

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Racism and religious intolerance are rampant throughout the world, yet when I lived in Canada, I saw just about every race and religion on earth living in harmony side by side.

I saw a lot of ethnic pride. Folklore and traditional customs were encouraged. In Toronto, where I lived the longest, immigrants from various parts of the world tended to settle near their friends, creating “Little Italy,” “Chinatown” and so on.

It was a cultural mosaic, rather than a melting pot.

(I seem to recall that in Toronto’s Chinatown, the street signs were in both English and Chinese. And I remember Italian signs in shop windows along Eglinton Avenue… But it was so long ago, and I am getting old. My memory is not what it used to be.)

Canadians are encouraged to be proud of their heritage but they are forbidden to deride their neighbor’s. Expressions of racist venom are outlawed, for example.

During the two decades I spent in that country, I saw Canada evolve into a model of ethnic tolerance. And with this ethnic tolerance came a willingness to accept religious diversity, even to the extent of accommodating Islamic prayer rooms at schools in Ontario.

Against such a background, yesterday’s assassination of a Canadian soldier and the subsequent assault on Parliament – apparently by a Muslim radical – leaves me bewildered.

It was the first such attack in Canadian history, and it raises some troubling questions.

Why on earth would a Canadian turn on his government like that? What “oppression” could he possibly cite as a motive?

What does this say about the Muslim religion? Is it possible to include it among other faiths without fearing violence from its followers? Can it be part of a tolerant ethnic and religious mosaic?

It is a question peaceful Muslims must ponder, and a troubling challenge for inclusive cultures like the benign one in Canada.

Click for more on the shooter.

Click for more on the terror attack in Canada.

Click for Muslim reaction in Canada.

Click for reaction in Britain.

 

Living in Fear

screamWhat is your greatest fear? Dying? Getting seriously ill? Losing a loved one?

If those are the fears that keep you awake at night, you are not a typical American. According to the first-ever national study of such matters, the typical American’s greatest fear is walking alone at night.

Really?

Even with that AK-47 slung over their shoulder? Or that .50-caliber Glock in their waist band?

It’s crime that scares Americans most, the study showed. Most Americans think violent crime is rising, even though the evidence shows crime rates are falling.

Salon.com quotes Dr. Edward Day, a sociologist who worked on the project, as saying:

What we found when we asked a series of questions pertaining to fears of various crimes is that a majority of Americans not only fear crimes such as child abduction, gang violence, sexual assault and others; but they also believe these crimes (and others) have increased over the past 20 years.

It must be the TV. Every second show is about cops and robbers; the news is full of scary stories about some young woman being abducted, raped and murdered.

The researchers found that the most fearful people shared “a high level of watching television, specifically talk and true-crime shows.”

But newspapers relish lurid crime stories, too.

Sandra reads the local paper every morning, and she makes sure our doors are always locked – day and night.

Americans are also terrified of having their identities stolen, the study showed. “Safety on the Internet” was another top-three worry (makes you wonder what they’re up to on the web, doesn’t it?)

“Being the victim of a mass/random shooting” was in fourth place, just ahead of “public speaking.”

Becoming ill wasn’t among the nation’s top fears, and barely made it into the top-five “concerns.”

Dying didn’t show up at all.

I suppose death isn’t so frightening if it isn’t the result of violent crime. As Kenny Rogers put it:

The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

 Click for the Salon.com article.

 

No, It’s Not Ebola

ebola

 

Your head is throbbing, you’ve got chills, your muscles ache, you feel weak and wobbly… OMG! Could it be?

Relax. It’s probably not Ebola. You’re far more likely to have the flu. Didn’t get vaccinated, did you? Kept putting it off. And now you’re paying the price.

The annual flu season is upon us, and the early symptoms of flu are much the same as those of the dreaded killer disease that has so many Americans in a panic.

According to a Reuters story, hospitals and doctors are bracing for a flood of patients who fear Ebola but  actually have a more familiar ailment – the flu.

According to the story:

Already dozens of false Ebola scares have been reported by hospitals even though the virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person and the virus is not airborne.

What part of “direct contact with bodily fluids” don’t people understand?

Reuters reports that “fear often trumps common sense, even though people should be far more worried about the flu given the toll it is known to take every year, doctors said.”

Of course the flu is nothing to sneeze at. It can kill, too.

Here’s a scary warning from the Reuters story:

You’re far more likely to die at this point from not receiving a flu shot,” said Dr. Sampson Davis, an emergency medicine physician at Meadowlands Hospital Center in Secaucus, New Jersey.

So, how about it? Most drug stores are offering free flu shots. It might be a good idea to tear yourself away from those merchants of doom on your TV screen and go get yourself inoculated.

And if it’s too late for you, if you already are coming down with the flu, you know he drill… rest in bed, take two aspirins, drink plenty of liquids…

Click for the Reuters story.

Click for more on the Ebola panic.